It was the end of the ’50s when Doug Clifford, Stu Cook
Doug was born in Palo Alto California on April 24th, 1945, roughly 3 hours before and thirty miles away from where band mate Stu Cook was born. They spent many a birthday together he says.
Doug’s father was a machinist and his mother sold cosmetics at the local Emporium. She also sang in a quartet that did some local radio shows from the Claremont hotel in the Berkley Hills. His dad hated the music, but mom supported him in his musical interests. He also had an older brother who beat him up all the time, until he got big enough to take care of himself.
DOUG: “My first record which I bought in 1953 was Etta James – Roll With Me Henry. My second was Bo Diddley by Bo Diddley. Both were 78’s. That’s all you could get back then. They were very fragile. When we moved from Manhattan Beach to Palo Alto my dad tipped the mover to ‘take care’ of my records. When they got there, they were dust!”
“Eventually he supported me. When I was 15 I was going to a gig at the El Cerrito Boys Club. So, I was loading my drums into his Mercury station wagon, and he says to me, ‘Goddammit Doug. Why didn’t you take up the piccolo? You put it in your back pocket and you walk to the gig.’ I said, ‘Ya pop, but I don’t know any piccolo players that are working.”
When I asked him why he decided to play the drums he said it was Gene Krupa, who first started it for him.
DOUG: “I really loved rock ‘n roll, R&B, and I really loved the black music and the horn sections: Little Richard, Fats Domino, James Brown… I saw a TV special with Gene Krupa, and he had his white sport coat, calypso tie, and slicked back black hair [Doug describes Gene’s multi drum set performance in great detail] and I saw that and just said, wow, I want to be like that guy.”
Being a drummer myself, I asked him why he started wearing gloves when he played.
DOUG: “Actually I only wear a glove on my left hand. I taught myself to play with the traditional (military) grip. The first time I saw somebody playing with a matched grip was Ringo on The Ed Sullivan Show, and I thought he was holding his sticks wrong! To keep a better grip on my left stick I would rough it up to remove the varnish so it wouldn’t slip out of my hand. As a result, the rough stick would wear out my skin between my thumb and forefinger, and blood would go everywhere, and the sticks would go flying. I put the glove on to stop the chafing and bleeding.”
This is part one of my interview with Doug Clifford. Watch for part two coming soon where Doug shares stories of CCR’s Woodstock appearance fifty years ago.
Creedence Clearwater Revisited has an upcoming show at The Nugget in Sparks on March 24.